With the help of Opta, we are for the first time able to better break one common part of the Sacramento Republic attack: the cross into the box. Opta defines a cross as a pass from a wide position into an area in the box.
It may seem like nearly every time that the Republic is on the attack, they are bringing the ball up the wing and attempting to swing it into the box. Almost like they are doing it at a pace of once every four minutes and thirty four seconds.
Well, if you had that oddly specific feeling, you are absolutely correct!
Through the first six games of the season, Republic has attempted 19.8 crosses on average per match. This blows the league-wide average of 11.9 attempted crosses per game (though Week 5) out of the water. The Republic are one of only four teams to make at least 15 crosses per match. Joining Republic in that category are Tampa Bay Rowdies, Rochester Rhinos, and Vancouver Whitecaps 2.
This may not necessarily be a bad thing, however, as Sacramento is almost a perfectly average team with their rate of crosses. Teams in the USL have an average completion percentage of 22.34% when crossing the ball. The Republic currently hold a 22.00% average. That’s close enough that one additional successful cross would make Republic an above average crossing team.
Knowing this, it raises the question of whether or not the Republic should continue to launch crosses in like they currently do. It is not necessarily a detriment to the team, since Republic is putting in a typical league-wide performance with crosses. However, a team with not only playoff but championship aspirations should aim higher.
Does this mean Republic should try to improve the rate at which it completes crosses while continuing to lead the league in crosses attempted, or getting rid of the idea entirely and taking a more direct up the middle approach to scoring?
I personally believe that with the talent of players like Kiffe, Hord, Blackwood, and Barrera on the wings that even a minor improvement in cross completion can make the Republic a very dangerous team. However, if you are unable to improve, making it your central point of attack does not make sense, as there is likely another strength to play to.
What are your thoughts on Republic’s crossing early in the season? Should they keep it up or shift gears and try a new idea? Let us know in the comments!